I am probably going to get in trouble for the views that I express. This is because in sporting terms, I am a novice in sports administration.
I am also a johnny-come-lately in sports. Now that the apologies are done with, let’s get to the issue: why is sport development treated by sports administrators, federations, event owners, corporates and some sports professionals as a corporate social investment (CSI) initiative, also known as charity?
I have been a marketer for more than 10 years, working with various brands, finding better ways to leverage sponsorships, eventing and other forms of support with one purpose in mind: to elevate the brands in the minds of the consumer and build loyalty. So my two years’ experience in sport have been a bit of a shocker.
In preparing for a major triathlon event, my club sent me over to chat to a respected sports administrator, to find out how one could get into the development programme. The answers left we wondering.
One of the criteria was you had to be considered “low income” and then everything else kicked in afterwards, that is fitness, ability etc. That was a turning point for my club of 40+ members, Vukani Multi Sport Club (Vukani MSC).
We decided we would do things radically and differently. A year later, results are showing.
So what’s wrong with the traditional approach? Everything about it is wrong because of one omission: the emphasis on talent identification, push for excellence, results and importance of a team structure and the quality of support.
If affordability is the entry point then one might as well choose to develop two-thirds of the population.
I’ve also learnt that approaching sport development as a CSI initiative does not foster excellence and results, but perpetuates a culture of dependency and entitlement. Scan the many development initiatives in various sport codes and you’ll see athletes who have been in development for more than five years.
What are the goals? What are the yardsticks? What’s the plan?
It is about time that this approach is abandoned. Development can’t be that narrow.
At Vukani MSC we define development as the expansion and inclusion of the previously disadvantaged into the various sport codes. In 1994 previously disadvantaged had a very different meaning to what it does now in 2015.
Those previously disadvantaged have had economic opportunities, thanks to the progressive policies of the current government (not without challenges of their own). However that does not mean sport has developed to be inclusive, in particular in small disciplines such as triathlon and cycling.
So how do we do it at Vukani MSC? What you find in this special club is that whether you’re a civil engineer, bicycle mechanic, business owner, medical doctor, unemployed youth, pupil or cleaner, you feel at home.
We are one. Those titles are left at home, your work, etc.
Those who have a little bit subsidise those who don’t have. Those who don’t have contribute what they have either in time, talent (coaching, mechanics) or ability.
There’s no free ride. Those with exceptional talent must commit to results in return for the club’s support. Has this worked? You be the judge.
Exactly a year ago since that conversation with the established administrator, Vukani MSC has gone on to the podium at an international event (Ironman 70.3 South Africa) and The Herald Cycle Tour this year. The team collected positions one and four in the team category at the Ironman 70.3 event.
A week later, our tandem team won the tandems division of The Herald Cycle Tour. Compare these results:
- Matt Trautman won Ironman 70.3 SA with a swim of 24 minutes, a bike ride of two hours 19 minutes and a run of one hour 16 minutes. Team Vukani won the 70.3 team event, with a swim of 29 minutes, a bike ride of two hours 42 minutes and a run of one hour 27 minutes;
- Nolan Hoffman won The Herald VW Cycle Tour in two hours 40 minutes. Team Vukani won the cycle tour tandem in two hours 53 minutes, a mere 13 minutes difference.
Vukani MSC will continue approaching sport development this way: we partner with like-minded organisations hungry to succeed like us and we train like pros thanks to nutrition partners like Nutritech, the first to invest in the potential of this club. Visionaries like ECU Line, involved in import and export, saw the potential and sponsored cycling kit.
The Herald provided the team with the platform to participate, availing 20 entries to the club. We could not have been where we are without Isuzu, that truly delivered us to all the Ironman events we’ve taken part in.
We do not have all the answers, we are young, naive and inexperienced, but maybe all of that is an advantage, no baggage to carry. All we have is the passion to succeed and win.
You can follow Vukani MSC on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vukani-Multi-SportClub/399322220161854.